Playing with my new underwater camera setup (a Canon G7 Mark II, in a Fantasea housing), whilst diving with a beautiful array of marine creatures, including nurse sharks & stingrays.
Without a doubt, my favourite morning spent on Oahu – I mean what’s not to like? Dolphins, swimming, in the wild? Humpbacks appearing out of nowhere? Beautiful, wild scenery? By far the most amazing part of the experience were the pods of dolphins – when one pod got too far away to ogle, another would appear from the blue. The playful ones who swam around me at the surface made my decade – they really are magical creatures! The west side of the island is really different to the area I was staying in – in a great way! Fewer tourists, more unpaved paths to meander, more relaxed and definitely more picturesque. If I had been a bit more savvy when booking places to stay, I would have explored very different areas – but we live and learn! The day I spent in Waianae was an eye-opener – quiet, sweeping coastal views, and I met only a few people as I wandered. Next time…next time…
I always try and spend my birthday abroad – ever since a mass misunderstanding on my thirtieth it just seemed easier… This year, checking out the cheap flights available, I landed on Antigua as my destination. The Caribbean has never made it high on my list before, but the diving is of course meant to be superb, and that seemed like a good enough excuse for a week away from the office.
I hired a villa from TT Villa Rentals – nice place, but a long way out on the north finger of Jolly Harbour – luckily I don’t mind a walk as it was over a mile to the local shop. Having nothing planned by 8 dives and a lot of reading, the view from the balcony had seemed on paramount importance when booking, and I was not disappointed! However, in typical fashion, I spent only a few hours sitting around, and instead was exploring local beaches, St John’s (the capital city, although Wickford High Street is about three times as big, and busier even on quiet days). July is distinctly off-season for Antigua, but that suits me down to the ground – the beaches were quiet, the restaurants didn’t need booking and planning, and there was no competition for tickets to, well anything.
Apart from the diving (I’ll write about that separately), I did a pretty limited amount of sight-seeing:
Nelson’s Dockyard – pretty place, lovely waterfront cafes to sit in, and really amazing pineapple turnovers made this place a fun stop.
Betty Hopes Plantation – the ruins are almost hidden by the encroaching forest nowadays, but the restored sugar mill stands tall and dominates the surrounding area. The tiny museum is full of old photos that are worth more than a cursory glance to someone wanting to understand something of the Islands recent history.
Kayaking – around the mangroves. This was a lot of fun (although I seem to remember saying to the individual who helped me plan this day “something away from the water would be good…”. The mangrove trees are smaller than I had imagined, and the water is incredibly shallow. Peering into the mangroves, you could quite easily get a bit of a shock – tiny black crabs running up and down the roots, fish hiding from predators – a proper little ecosystem.
Jolly Harbour – more of a giant villa complex than a sight per say, but the harbour is great for walking and full of interesting boats and people coming and going. I learnt to gut and prepare a lionfish standing at the waters edge on my first day…pretty tasty when fried!
North Finger Beach – my favourite local beach – I never had to share it with anyone! The water was a wonderful bathtub temperature, and being only a five-minute walk from the villa, I could swim morning, noon and night (which I did).
First dives of the holiday are always the most exciting 🙂 Diving with 2 instructors from Living Ocean Scuba, it was the perfect easy introduction to Oahu. Turtles gatore, moray eels, yellow tangs everywhere and a baby octopus floating around made the first tank fly by. Second tank highlight was without doubt the White-tipped Reef Shark, fast asleep tucked under a rock. As the only shark who does sleep, they are pretty easy to find and view during the day. During night dives, they are more active, out and about hunting.